Japan’s Basic Plan for Space Policy

October 30, 2009 at 10:06 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

Japan’s Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy has released an unofficial English Translation of Japan’s Basic Plan for Space Policy. The introduction reads:


This Basic Plan for Space Policy forged this time is based on the Basic Space Law established in May 2008 and is a Japan’s first basic policy relating to space activities.

Japan’s use and R&D of space began from the “Pencil Rocket” project launched by Professor Itokawa of Tokyo University in 1955. Since then, approximately half a century has passed and Japan has reached to hold a position as one of the leading countries of the space development. Japan’s outstanding performance such as continuous successful launch of H-IIA Launch Vehicles after overcoming all sorts of failures, HDTV images of the moon captured by “Kaguya” and experiments conducted by Japanese astronauts in Japanese experiment module “Kibo” of the International Space Station shows the sophisticated technological capability as well as helps to bring space activities closer to the Japanese people.

However, looking at the international trends, even China and India in addition to the space advanced countries such as United States, Europe and Russia have actively been participating in the use and R&D of space in recent years, and it is undeniable to feel a sense of crisis over Japan’s use and R&D of space as mentioned below:

(1) Absence of general strategy for space at the country level A lack of affiliation between research & development and its utilization/industrial promotion caused the whole government to fail to take advantage of the achievements of the use and R&D of space at the country level because it was not specifically positioned as a “national strategy”.

(2) Insufficiency of Japan’s track record of space utilization Not only in the Western countries, but also many countries such as Russia and China set information gathering for national security purposes by using satellites as one of the major objectives of their space policy. In Japan, on the other hand, space is partially utilized in civilian purposes in areas such as weather forecast, telecommunication and broadcasting. Yet, in other areas as well as from diplomatic aspects, Japan’s utilization of space should be pursued further. In particular, use of space for national security purposes is limited in a generalized area.

(3) A lack of international competitiveness of industry According to a private study, the space equipment industry in Japan has decreased by approximately 40% of sales and nearly 30% of workforce in the past decade. Space industry for major technologies, parts and system is not fully competitive internationally, and weakness of international competitiveness of space industry is showing a lack of practical accomplishment and experience. Most of Japan’s operational satellites such as broadcasting satellite are imported from overseas and it is extremely unusual to export Japanese space satellites and rockets to foreign countries.

The Basic Space Law aims to solve these existing issues and stipulates that the government formulates Basic Plan for Space Policy. This law aims to powerfully work in a comprehensive and systematic manner to “change space policy from R&D-driven to utilization-driven underpinned by high technological capabilities”, to “utilize in the area of national security” beyond the generalized theory while maintaining an exclusively defense-oriented policy in accordance with the principle of pacifism enshrined in the Constitution of Japan, to promote “space diplomacy” and “research and development of the forefront areas” and at the same time to forge “improvement of industrial competitiveness” while aiming to become “environment-friendly”.

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